Proper Shovel Chopper

Article and Photos By: Mark Velazquez

Originally Published In The April 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Like the great state of New Jersey, Long Island over the years has often taken the beating of many back-end jokes. But over the past several years that has all come to a change in the motorcycle world. Long Island has put itself on the map as ground zero for some of the best-hidden garage builders that will rival any place in the grand old USA. I, myself, have been lucky enough to run across a motley crew of these misfit builders, The Yard Ratz, Baby James, Justin Zober, and Billy Quinn to name a few. All of whom have now become friends on and off the road because they all just do what they love to do, build cool bikes and ride. But this quick tale is about only one from this close-knit crew, and his name is Joe Leopold.

A true Long Islander, Joe was born and raised in a town called Mastic and has spent most of his life on what is known as the East End. Like most kids there, Joe grew up in the world of dirt bikes. After serving four years in the US Marine Corp (thank you for your service), Joe returned home, and that is when he purchased his first Harley, a 1980 Low Rider Shovel. This would be the bike that would truly hook Joe into the world of choppers, wrenching, and the open road. As the story goes, Joe pretty much rode the snot out that Shovel and enjoyed every moment. But like most of his buddies, there was a calling to make the next move and embark on a project that would be a trademark of his own. A bike that would have the vision of what choppers meant to him and be an accurate reflection of what he envisioned his ride to be.

As many stories have started, Joe was lucky enough to find a local steal on Craigslist, a 1977 Shovel that was road worthy and a great local find. After making the deal, his new purchase sat for the first year while the plans began to build in Joe’s head on how to make this ride his very own. With that said everything, and I do mean everything came off this bike! Leopold sent the motor to longtime engine king, James Best over at Dudley’s Basement, an iconic shop on Long Island, a place you want to go if you want your engine and just about anything else done the right way the first time.

With the engine off to get a second chance at life the rest of the bike was stripped down, and the fun began. From front to back, changes were made starting with 4 over DNA wishbone forks. Joe always thought real choppers had spoke wheels, so of course, those were a must. Next came a new gas tank, hand fabricated rear fender, and a seat pan that was sent to Phoenix Upholstery. Boy, did they do a killer job on that King & Queen seat! To top it off, Continental Car Care laid down a flawless paint job. Joe wanted this motorcycle to be his and only his, so he made sure that his hands did as much of the work themselves as possible. This chopper not only looks good but sounds great, it’s a true chopper in every sense of the word.

In the end, Joe got just what the doctor ordered, a custom ride that started with his vision of what a chopper means to him. Leopold knows that this project will never really end. The beauty of having your own build is you can change it just like the weather, and it will still reflect precisely who you are. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re building in a basement or high-end shop with painted floors. Joe’s ride is a great reminder that “out of the box” only means that you’re riding another man’s vision. Now more than ever, I have to say Joe fits right in with the Long Island motley crew that is regularly seen blasting around the Island and far beyond.


Owner: Joe Leopold

City/State: Mastic, NY

builder: Owner

Year: 1977

Model: Chopper

Value: ?

Time: 4 Months


Year: 1977

Model: Shovel

Builder: James Best

Ignition: Points

Displacement: 74cu

Pistons: Wiseco

Heads: Port & Polished

Carb: S&S Super E

Cam: Andrews B

Air Cleaner: S&S


Primary: Open


Year: 1977

Make: Harley-Davidson

Shifting: Handshift


Year: 70’s

Make: Jammer




Type: Wishbone

Builder: DNA

Extension: 4 Over

Triple Trees:

Wheels, Tires, Brake

Rear Wheel: Spoke

Size: 21”

Front Tire: Avon Speedmaster

Front Brake: None

Rear Wheel: Spoke

Size: 16”

Rear Tire: Avon

Rear Brake: Banana


Painter: Continenatal Car Care

Color: Root Beer Flake






Risers: 4”

Hand Controls”

Fuel Tanks: 2.1 Gal

Front Fender: None

Rear Fender: 6” Flat

Seat: Phoeniz Upholstery

Foot Controls: V-Twin

Mirror: None

Oil Tank: Horseshoe

Headlight: Dual 4.5”


Speedo: None

PHOTOGRAPHER: Mark Velazquez

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